Books

There’s so much good news about Malorie Blackman’s Noughts & Crosses series

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Moya Crockett
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Stormzy to star in Noughts and Crosses

Stormzy is appearing in the BBC adaptation of Noughts & Crosses, Malorie Blackman is working on a new novel, and we’re very, very excited.

When the news broke last year that Malorie Blackman’s beloved novel Noughts & Crosses was to be adapted into a BBC TV series, countless Brits in their 30s and 20s rejoiced. The 2001 book – and its ensuing series – was beloved by a generation of then-teenagers for its high-stakes story of love, friendship, family and politics, as well as its sharp exploration of race and class. The Nineties and Noughties were a period in British history when the prevailing liberal narrative was that the colour of someone’s skin was completely irrelevant – a well-meaning but misguided trope that denied the very real existence and impact of racism. But Blackman’s books, which are set in a parallel world in which people of European descent (‘noughts’) had historically been enslaved by people from Africa (‘crosses’), invited young people to consider how racism and classism operated in their own lives.

The BBC’s Noughts & Crosses adaptation is set to air later this year, with young actors Masali Baduza and Jack Rowan starring as ‘cross’ Sephy Hadley and ‘nought’ Callum McGregor. Sephy is black, the privileged daughter of a prominent politician. Callum is white, and – like many noughts – experiences brutal discrimination and lack of opportunity as a result of his race and class. The script is being overseen by Being Human creator and writer Toby Whitehouse, with Jay-Z’s company Roc Nation co-producing the series. And on 21 March, it was announced that rapper Stormzy has also joined the show’s cast as newspaper editor Kolawale.

But the BBC TV series isn’t the only exciting Noughts & Crosses news on the horizon. Blackman is also working on a fifth novel in the series, inspired by Brexit, Donald Trump and the rise of the far-right across Europe. (To date, the Noughts & Crosses series has sold more than 1.7 million copies in the UK and around the world.) Called Crossfire, the novel will pick up several years after the end of the last book in the series, Double Cross

Crossfire will feature the established characters of Sephy, her daughter Callie-Rose and Callie-Rose’s friend (and one-time boyfriend) Tobey. Explaining why she decided to write another Noughts & Crosses book, Blackman said the current political climate had sparked her imagination.

“The previous books in the Noughts & Crosses series were inspired by and written in reply to contemporary events,” she said. “Crossfire is no different. I wanted to write a book that turned the spotlight on not just elections and politics but the pursuit of power.”

As well as Sephy, Callie-Rose and Tobey, Crossfire will also tell the story of two new teenage protagonists named Libby and Troy, Blackman said. 

She added that she was “thrilled to be revisiting the Noughts & Crosses world again”. 

Malorie Blackman is also writing an episode of the new Doctor Who, starring Jodie Whittaker 

In addition to the BBC TV series and Blackman’s new novel, a play based on Noughts & Crosses is currently touring the UK. The book was adapted for the stage by poet, screenwriter and activist Sabrina Mahfouz, whose essay anthology – The Things I Would Tell You: British Muslim Women Write – was published to critical acclaim in 2017.

Blackman – who was appointed an OBE in 2008 and made Children’s Laureate in 2013 – also worked on the first series of Doctor Who to star Jodie Whittaker. Alongside Chris Chibnall, she wrote the script for ‘Rosa’, the episode that showed the Doctor travelling to Alabama in 1965 to meet civil rights activist Rosa Parks. 

The BBC adaptation of Noughts & Crosses is set to air later this year. We’ll keep you posted on an exact date as soon as we have it.

Images: Getty Images / Tom Van Schelven for Stylist

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Moya Crockett

Moya is Contributing Women’s Editor at stylist.co.uk and Deputy Editor of Stylist Loves, Stylist's daily email newsletter. Carrying a bottle of hot sauce on her person at all times is one of the many traits she shares with both Beyoncé and Hillary Clinton.